How to start a landscaping business

If you enjoy working outside and are keen to be your own boss, setting up a landscape gardening business could be an option to explore. This guide explains everything you need to know about how to start a landscaping business. 

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Why start a landscaping business?

Working for yourself has a number of benefits. For a start, you’ll have more flexible working hours and you’ll be able to choose the projects you want to work on.

If you’re also someone who likes to work outside, rather than sit at a desk all day, and you enjoy being creative, a landscape gardening business could be a good match. However, you will need to be prepared to work hard and be happy to work all in weather conditions. 

You’ll also need to have training in lots of different areas, including stonework, paving, draining and irrigation and decking, and have a good knowledge of plants. If you don’t have the required skills, it’s best to take a course at a horticultural college before you start.

What equipment is required?

To enable you to easily travel to different clients, you’ll need to invest in a reliable vehicle. You’ll also need to invest in a range of tools and other equipment. Try to buy good-quality tools so that they last well and remember that your vehicle will need to be large enough to contain them.

Tools and equipment to think about include:

  • Lawnmower
  • Trailer
  • Hedge trimmer
  • Strimmer
  • Spreaders and sprayers
  • Leaf blower
  • Edger
  • Shovels, spades and forks
  • Rake
  • Hoses
  • Marking and measuring tools
  • Basic carpenter’s tools
  • Shears
  • Work gloves
  • Safety goggles

What are the steps to starting a landscaping business?

1. Understand the job

Firstly, do your research and make sure you understand exactly what the job involves. You might work with residential clients, commercial clients or both. You’ll need to be able to build up good working relationships with your clients so that you can get a good idea about the changes they would like made to their garden.

As part of this, you’ll need to be able to sketch out plans that match your client’s vision, ensure plans come in on budget, and be able work out estimates for your clients. You will also need to be able to construct water features, plant trees and cultivate turf, as well as understand how to handle pesticides, fertilisers and other chemicals, and know how to approach dangerous plants. 

On top of this, you’ll need to prepared to promote your business to gain more clients. 

2. Develop a seasonal strategy

A lot of your practical work will be carried out in the summer months. However, because clients often don’t want people working in their garden during the holidays, you’ll need to be prepared to work during the colder winter months too. Much of your planning will also be carried out during the winter. 

The downside is that bad weather can hamper your work schedule – if it’s raining heavily or there’s a blanket of thick snow, you might not be able to work. This means it’s crucial to be resourceful and plan carefully. If you find your work tails off considerably in the winter months, you might need to take on other jobs to supplement your income. 

3. Set a legal structure

When you set up your business, you’ll need to choose a legal structure. The simplest option is to set up as a sole trader, but you could also consider setting up a limited company. Rather than paying income tax, as you do as a sole trader, limited companies pay corporation tax on their profits. If you’re a higher rate taxpayer, this could work out cheaper. 

Setting up a limited company could also make more sense if you plan to hire employees as you can pay salaries through the Pay as You Earn scheme. 

4. Ensure you comply with all legalities

Before you start trading, you must register with HMRC to be able to file a self-assessment tax return if you’re a sole trader, or corporation tax if you’re a limited company. You’ll also need to register for National Insurance and potentially VAT if, by the end of any month, your VAT taxable turnover exceeds £85,000 in the last 12 months. If you’re hiring staff, you will need to register for PAYE.

It’s important to do this quickly, as you can be fined if you register late. 

5. Get insurance

Insurance is another key consideration when you’re setting up a business. You’ll need to consider the following policies:

  • Public liability insurance. This covers you if you’re taken to court because your business activities caused damage to someone’s property or resulted in injury. It can cover your legal costs and any compensation you might be required to pay.
  • Employer’s liability insurance. If you employ staff, this type of insurance is likely to be a legal requirement. It will cover you for compensation claims if an employee becomes ill or injures themselves due to the work they carry out for you. 
  • Professional indemnity insurance. This will protect you in the event a client loses money as a result of negligence in the services you’ve provided. It can cover legal fees and compensation payments. 

6. Market your business & find customers

Once you’ve completed the above steps, you’ll be ready to start looking for business. Many landscape gardening businesses advertise in local newspapers or directories, but you can also look at online marketing. It’s a good idea to create a Google Business Profile so that you get found in local search results. 

It’s also important to build a business website and, as and when you complete jobs, add photos to showcase your work. The more projects you take on, the more easily you can build a portfolio and highlight your skills. 

It can be worth setting up social media profiles on Twitter, Facebook and/or Instagram, as this can help you to attract new clients. Other advertising options include flyers and posters. 

Don’t forget that word of mouth can also work to your advantage. Build good relationships with your existing clients and this can help you to win new ones.

Secure funding to establish or grow a landscaping business

Whether you’re in the early stages of setting up your landscaping business or you’re looking to expand an existing one, chances are you’ll need to borrow funds to help achieve your goals. 

One option is to borrow money from friends and family. This can be cheaper than taking out a traditional loan, but can also make things difficult if your business fails and you’re unable to repay the money. 

Another option worth thinking about is a startup loan. These loans are designed specifically to help new businesses launch and expand. You receive a lump sum of money that you then repay in monthly instalments with interest added. To qualify, your business must have been trading for no more than 36 months and you must be able to prove that you were unable to obtain a loan from alternative sources and that you can afford the repayments. 

It can also be worth checking whether you are eligible for a business grant. This is a sum of money awarded to a business to help it grow and develop. Business grants are usually awarded by the government or other companies and don’t need to be repaid. There are hundreds of different grants you can apply for across the UK, but these will often be targeted to specific industries, community groups or types of business, so check carefully. Take a look at our business grants page for more information. 

Alternatively, crowdfunding enables you to collect money from a large number of people via online platforms. Depending on the type of crowdfunding you use, these people might get a share in the company or a reward in exchange for their investment. 

You could also consider a business credit card for smaller purchases, such as tools, while 

asset finance can be used to help you acquire larger equipment such as lawnmowers. With hire purchase, for example, you effectively hire the equipment from the lender and then make the agreed monthly payments. At the end of the term, you own the piece of equipment. 

Alternatively, leasing lets you rent the equipment from a finance provider and then pay a regular fixed fee over a set term, with interest on top. At the end of the term you might be able to pay a lump sum to buy the equipment, continue to lease it or cancel the agreement. 

Get started with Swoop

When deciding which finance option is best for your new landscaping business, you’ll need to think about how much funding you actually need, considering how much it will cost to get your business off the ground and your operating costs for the year ahead. 

It’s also important to think about eligibility criteria and ensure you meet this before you apply for any type of finance. 

If you’re not sure which funding option is right for you, the team of experts at Swoop will be happy to talk through your options and help you find the best solution. Get in touch today.


Written by

Rachel Wait

Rachel has been writing about finance and consumer affairs for over a decade, helping people to get to grips with their finances and cut through the jargon. She's written for a range of websites and national newspapers including MoneySuperMarket, Money to the Masses, Forbes UK, and Mail on Sunday. Rachel has covered almost every financial topic, from car insurance and credit cards, to business bank accounts and mortgages.

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